The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: Hats off to a brave handler and her 'Obama'

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense chief canine correspondent

An army sergeant in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps was awarded an MBE -- Member of the Order of the British Empire -- last week for her work as a dog handler detecting bombs in Helmand Provence and for, "Always keeping a cool head and demonstrating unwavering bravery. ... Wilson pushed herself and her dog to the limits of endurance ... saving countless lives in the process."

But Wilson was quick to share the commendation with her partner, a two-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malanois, saying that their work is a "team effort."

Her dog's name? Obama.

Curiously, neither Wilson or the British press (at least the articles I read) made no comment on the dog's name or his namesake. They did, however, report that Wilson remembered Cpl. Liam Tasker, a handler, who was shot and killed in Afghanistan last spring. He and his working dog Theo, who died shortly thereafter, had set the record for uncovering IEDs.  

Wilson, who did three tours in Afghanistan doing the intense and dangerous work of roadside detection, remarked that Tasker's death left an impact on her team. "We are all very close, so what happened affected everyone. Unfortunately jobs have to be done and we all had to carry on."

Obama -- the bomb-sniffing dog -- is still on tour in Afghanistan. Wilson, who already has three other dogs at home, is considering adopting her former partner when his service is over.

A tip of the WDotW hat to Mr. David Rothkopf

The Best Defense

Auftrag-static (IX): Shamir's work on mission command strikes me as thin

The other day, one of my guest columnists was citing Eitan Shamir's Transforming Command: The pursuit of mission command in the U.S., British and Israeli armies. Checking on line, I saw that the title of Shamir's chapter 4 is, "Inspired by corporate practices: American army command traditions." That intrigued me, because it relates to some themes of the book I'm currently writing. I also was impressed that he got Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a smart guy, to write a foreword.

So I was pretty disappointed when I read the chapter to find that its title wasn't supported by much evidence. Or any, really. Shamir writes that, "Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall patterned army organization on the ideas of American business." (p. 61). That surprised me because I have read thousands of pages of interviews and documents Marshall produced and corporate practice almost never comes up.

The second warning sign: Shamir footnotes that sentence about Marshall to Gabriel and Savage's Crisis in Command, which is not a very good book, and is about Vietnam, not about World War II or George Marshall. So I went down to the Vietnam section of my basement library and found on page 18 of Gabriel and Savage's book one paragraph of unsupported assertions about Marshall relying on business practice in World War II. No evidence, no footnotes, no nothing.

That is a mighty thin reed on which to build a chapter. And, like the clock striking 13, it makes me wonder what else Shamir has gotten wrong. So later in the book when I read his statement that, "The British Army has probably been most successful in implementing mission command," (P. 197) I was skeptical. I wondered what his evidence was, or whether this was simply more unsupported assertion.  

Based on what I have read so far, I was surprised to see Stanford University Press published the book. I mean, Stanford is supposed to be pretty good, no? Best university west of UC Berkeley?